By Mark Adebayo
“The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it”.
– Albert Einstein
IN an unprecedented and unexpected move the governors of the 17 states of Southern Nigeria assembled in Asaba, the Delta State capital, on Tuesday 11th of May, 2021 to deliberate extensively on the burgeoning state of insecurity that is rapidly consuming the Nigerian state.
Suddenly, it seems the governors from the South have realised the enormity of the security challenges confronting the Zone and would want to avoid a total security meltdown as being witnessed currently in the Northeast and other zones in the North. The spillover effects of the insecurity in the North have begun to manifest in the South as reflected in the violent criminalities by killer herders, kidnappers, ritualists, armed robbers and others. In addition to these, self-determination agitations are becoming serious security concerns as self-determination groups, especially in the South-East and the South-West, are becoming more daring and fociferous in their demands for the separate nations of Biafra and Oduduwa Republics which they believe, with good reasons, as the solution to the persistent socioeconomic and political injustices being meted to Southerners within the warped structure of Nigeria that ensures that the North is positioned to hold the longer end of the stick to the detriment and chagrin of the South.
This agelong imbalance has never been more accentuated than the presidency of General Muhammadu Buhari in the last six years who is seen as someone solely committed to the interests of the Hausa-Fulani judging by his appointments that are heavily skewed in favour of the latter. The Southern governors alluded to this in their incredible communiqué when they advised the president to henceforth reflect Federal Character in his appointments, especially heads of security agencies. The Southern governors seem to have risen to the realities of the untenable conditions of the country and are determined to do something about it by picking up the gauntlets of naysayers, especially power brokers from the North who consider issues such as restructuring and ban on open grazing as untouchable items on the national discourse.
I guess the governors have become aware of the judgment of posterity on them and decided to sacrifice their narrow political interests for the overall interests of their people.
I want to believe, rather atypical of current generations of Nigerian politicians in government, these governors want to secure a place for themselves on the noble pages of history by choosing to follow what Thomas Paine’s position when he wrote that “If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace”.
The governors have realised that they must make sacrifices today so that by tomorrow they can reap peace with their offsprings convinced that they acted when the situation demanded and not later join a motley crowd of catwaulers lamenting the avoidable but calamitous degeneracy of their country. Definitely, they will pay political capital for what they have done. The Federal Government and powerful Northern interests are already raising their objections to the contents of their communiqué that received overwhelming commendations from Southerners Now, that’s a fundamental anathema in the structures of power equation in Nigeria. The North believes it must dictate how Nigeria runs irrespective of how other geopolitical zones of the country feel.
When some states in the North decided to operate the Sharia legal system in their states, they didn’t consult with the South irrespective of the fact that millions of Christian Southerners live and work in their states. They banned alcohol and certain modes of dressing that denied Southerners living and working in those states the freedom of choice. Sharia was imposed on them and heaven did not fall despite strong protestations from the South. But now that the 17 Southern governors decided to take actions that will ensure security and peace in their domains, many Northern elites and politically exposed personalities are up in arms against restructuring, national dialogue and ban on open grazing as decided by the governors. The entitlement mentality of some Northern political actors has been of retrogressive effects on the Nigerian state of which most Southerners consider it a noble cause to resist. The idea of having a stratified political arrangement that categorizes some citizens from a section of the country as second-class and third-class is extremely objectionable to the South – especially Southern intellectual-political elites who are resistant to any idea of the North posing as the master of the South.
The meeting of the Southern governors was and still being widely celebrated in the South. But Northern political power interests see it as a challenge to them if not an outright rebellion or treason. It was something they couldn’t fathom – a united South standing together!
For Southerners generally, it was a ray of hope shining uninhibited. A new dawn of leadership revolution that promises liberation from all forms of injustice and slavish political fait accompli that demanded Northern approval for Southern initiatives.
It was positively shocking to see 17 governors eschewing political divides and affiliations to arrive at far-reaching decisions – for which they realised there would be consequences, especially those of the ruling APC – that are designed to protect their people and guarranttee peace and security in the Southern geopolitical zones.
The governors’ call for restructuring, national dialogue, and the ban on open grazing resonate well with their people, the regular Southerners.
Godfrey Reggio wrote that “I think its naive to pray for (world) peace if we are not going to change the form in which we live”. It is stupidity to expect development, peace, security and unity in Nigeria if nothing is done about the county’s current structure that militates against virtues of national development and the peace that we seek. We can’t continue talking and complaining about our problems without taking actions necessary to arrive at those destinations. For the governors to have taken the bold steps they’ve taken is to take responsibility for the ways things have to be, moving forward. What they have proposed is the only way out of the slippery slope of Nigeria towards irreversible precipice. We must take Nigeria out of its discombobulated quagmire before the falcon irretrievably disconnects from the falconer.
It is now left to President Muhammadu Buhari to recognize the historic responsibility bestowed upon him by listening to the governors and taking actions as they have recommended rather than listening to power cultists who surround him and try to convince him to the contrary. Those whose mainstay is political power industry would never contemplate allowing power devolution from the center and that would further hasten the demise of Nigeria as a country. He should NOT listen to the latter – they don’t mean well for Nigeria.
Nigeria cannot survive another five years by operating the current structure and the faulty 1999 Constitution. As a matter of fact, except concrete steps are taken towards restructuring this country immediately, Nigeria may not be around by 2023 or could be in a state of war or a rather disfigured peace that would make elections impossible to hold. Nigeria must be restructured if it must not rupture. Beyond ego peddling by the beneficiaries of the current warped structure of Nigeria, there is no valid argument against restructuring – none!
According to A. J. Muste “There is no way to peace, peace is the way”. A fundamental panacea to Nigeria’s myriads of malaise is restructuring, inter alia.
The enemies of Nigeria are not those seeking its restructuring, but those opposed to it.
The 17 Southern state governors’ communiqué is a major answer to the Nigerian question.
They have done well!